Janes reported that the Italian Ministry of Defence (MoD) plans to fund new multi-year programmes for the development of three Leonardo MC-27J Praetorian special operations aircraft for the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana). The latest multi-year planning document (Documento Programmatico Pluriennale, DPP) funds EUR80 million (USD94.3 million) between 2021 and 2026 for the MC-27J Praetorian development programme and mentions a requirement for three aircraft in the special operations configuration. However, the overall budget requirement amounts to EUR99 million, leaving EUR19 million unfunded.
Italian Air Force has 12 aircraft in operation as of January 2012 with 98th Gruppo/46th Air Brigade. The MC-27J Praetorian programme was launched in the early 2010s to study and eventually develop a special forces version of the AMI’s C-27J tactical aircraft for commando and weaponised missions. The programme appeared to have stalled in the mid-2010s as no progress was reported until November 2020, when, according to official documents, the Italian Air Force Staff gave a mandate to the Directorate for Air Armaments and Airworthiness (DAAA) to proceed with the refinement of the technical-administrative process.
The Alenia C-27J Spartan is a military transport aircraft developed and manufactured by Leonardo’s Aircraft Division (formerly Alenia Aermacchi until 2016). It is an advanced derivative of Alenia Aeronautica’s earlier G.222 (C-27A Spartan in U.S. service), equipped with the engines and various other systems also used on the larger Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules. In addition to the standard transport configuration, specialized variants of the C-27J have been developed for maritime patrol, search and rescue, C3 ISR (command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), fire support/ground-attack and electronic warfare missions.
The C-27J has also been ordered by the military air units, as of 2020, orders stand at Australia (10), Bulgaria (3), Chad (2), Greece (8), Italy (12), Kenya (3), Lithuania (3), Mexico (4), Morocco (4), Peru (4), Romania (7), Slovakia (2), Zambia (2), United States (21), and an undisclosed country (2). In November 2020, Leonardo launched the C-27J Next Generation programme with new equipment, systems and aerodynamic solutions to improve operating efficiency and enhance performance. While the new winglets contribute to improve climb performance and increase the MTOW by up to 1,000 kg.